Not that anyone asked, but . . .
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw make a terrific course design team, and perhaps one year the proper conditions will prevail to make Dallas’s Trinity Forest an interesting challenge for PGA Tour players, but a foot of rain, no wind to speak of, and fairways so wide that Stevie Wonder would hit at least 60% of them made for an almost farcical Byron Nelson Classic. Hell, even Tony Romo looked respectable. I get the intention of the layout – ideally, 15 to 20 mph winds combined with fast and firm conditions over a bouncy track, and one can envision links-like conditions inland. But if there is one thing less predictable than the direction of a Phil Mickelson tee shot, it’s springtime Texas weather.
So for those participants who are traveling to Long Island to participate in the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, the only common denominator for them will be that a lot of rain is expected throughout the week. The Black’s fairways will be snaky thin, the rough thick and wet, and the bunkering diabolical. I’ll predict right now that no one will come within 10 shots of this past weekend’s 23-under total rung up by winner Sung Kang.
Kang, a South Korean national who lives in the Dallas suburb of Coppell (and who is not to be confused with the actor who appears in the Fast and Furious movie franchise), stated in a Saturday interview (that round was delayed by 6 hours due to the torrential downpours that have recently plagued North Texas) that unlike previous situations that found him at or near the top of the leaderboard, he planned on being much more relaxed. This approach seemed to carry over into his play, as he was often timed at around 90 seconds while preparing to take a shot. This fact was not lost on fellow competitor Matt Every, who contended for the lead for much of the weekend and who also managed an epic club throw after a poor bunker shot in the second round.
Hometown hero (and Trinity Forest member) Jordan Spieth once again failed to crack the top 20 and at this point would have to be considered the darkest of equines to make any noise at Bethpage. On the other hand, defending PGA Champion Brooks Koepka was rock solid, finishing three strokes behind Kang.
Meanwhile, there were numerous Tiger sightings in Long Island. His yacht is parked in Oyster Bay, and he’s already been seen getting in practice reps on the Black.
One can come up with any number of reasons for either favoring or disregarding The Big Cat’s chances:
- PRO: He’s won there before.
- CON: That was 17 years ago.
- PRO: He’s rested.
- CON: He’s rusty.
- PRO: He drove it well at Augusta.
- CON: The fairways at Bethpage are about a third in width as those at Augusta, and missing them is far more penal.
- PRO: He won the Masters
- CON: This field is at least twice as deep as that as Augusta
I actually think that points 3 and 4 may be the most telling. Woods mentioned being “sore” after his Masters victory. If “sore” simply means the normal wear and tear of hiking around the extremely hilly confines of Augusta National (and by the way, the Black has its own terrain challenges), then so be it. It did, however, seem a bit odd for Tiger to skip Quail Hollow, one of his favorite tracks. I suppose questions about his health are always going to be a concern going forward.
If not Tiger, then whom?
Conventional wisdom states that the Black should favor a bomber.
Hello, Dustin Johnson, Rory, Koepka, Jon Rahm, and as a dark horse, Gary Woodland.
But it’s going to be wet! Gotta keep it in the fairway!
Sergio (if the crowds don’t get to him), Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, and another dark horse, Rory Sabbatini, come on down!
In the PGA Championship, not so much. Although the Black has found its way into the Tour schedule as of late. And another dark horse, Lucas Glover (who won the US Open here in 2009 and has played better of late) emerges.
Who will the tough New Yaawk crowd get behind?
Lefty! Lefty! LEFTY! (nah, I can’t see it).
So . . . gun to my head pick?
Tell you on Wednesday.